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Nina In New York: I Dream Of A World Where Cyclists And Pedestrians Love One Another

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(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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By Nina Pajak

So, change has finally come. The hotly contested “cyclists must dismount” signs on a stretch of path in Riverside Park have officially been replaced by new ones:

“Cyclists Must Yield to Pedestrians At All Times”

I must admit, I’ve been an agnostic on the highly politicized bike lane argument. But anecdotally, as a resident of the city who spends a fair bit of time walking, I have noticed a severe lack of cooperation between bikers and pedestrians. Crossing a road in Central Park is like trying to cross a road in the Alps during the Tour de France. People, whom I shall generously assume to be relatively normal and fairly pleasant in the course of their every day lives, tear through crosswalks and red lights as though Lance is just up ahead and if . . . they . . . could . . . only . . . go . . . a little . . . fasterrrrrrrrLOOK OUT BABIES AND DOGS! MY IMAGINARY SPONSORSHIP DEPENDS ON THIS RACE! Some cyclists by the Hudson seem to feel that the newly-paved lanes the run along the river are specifically reserved for them, and they holler at walkers to “get out of the bike lane!” as they zip past.

And I thought golf was the hobby that was supposed to make everyone angry.

Of course, they’re not all bad. I’ve gotten more than a few people yell, “thank you for stoppinnnnnnng!” as they whiz by me, while I patiently wait for a break in the cycle traffic. I think there is potential for accord here. So as much as I don’t love walking down that path in Riverside Park and worrying about people flattening me or Gus, I was never opposed to sign change. The fact is that most people did not dismount, so rather than leave up an ineffective message, why not compromise to the same outcome? All us “foot folk” really want is to share the path in peace without harm coming to anyone. If we can move to one side, the peddlers can surely slow it down and be cognizant of those around them. I mean, it’s only like 100 feet.

Or so I thought, until a couple of weeks ago.

He came out of nowhere as Gus and I turned onto the path, and seemed to be heading straight for us. Our eyes met, and I could tell he had no intention of steering out of our way. To be honest, he looked a little wobbly on his wheels, so I quickly moved to the opposite side of the path. But something strange had happened in his head. He’d somehow locked in on us, and was now following our movements, almost unconsciously. There was nowhere I could move that wouldn’t result in a collision, and he was moving too fast to get out ahead. He showed no signs of slowing down, so I pulled Gus in close and we pressed ourselves against the fence, bracing for impact.

See Also: Bike Bedlam: Disturbing Cyclist Trends

In a flash, the tricycle hit Gus in the side, and he yelped and then let out a little growl, leaping around and looking for the culprit. But all he saw was a little toddler-aged boy, staring at us wide-eyed and completely confused.

Oh yeah, that’s right. I said tricycle.

The boy’s father sprinted towards us, looking slightly panicked and panting for breath.

“I told you to slow down! Why don’t you slow down?” he yelled at the kid. His son remained mute and was then instructed to apologize, which he dutifully did, though I have my doubts as to his level of understanding of his crime. The father continued to apologize profusely and scold his child at the same time. I assured him that there was no real harm done, though Gus continued to look at the tricycle with deep mistrust. I could tell he wouldn’t mind sinking a tooth into one of the wheels.

We continued on our way, and I had to laugh as I passed yet another “cyclists must yield” sign.

So far, we’re not off to a strong start.

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Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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